By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun
1:59 PM EDT, August 27, 2011
Residents will get a chance to weigh in on Howard County's speed camera program Wednesday, as officials consider where the devices can be placed.
The cameras must be located near schools under a county law passed in May, but the legislation requires schools, police and public works officials to consider public input in deciding how far the school zones should extend.
The Police Department has not yet named a contractor to install the speed cameras this fall, a spokeswoman said Thursday.
Six civilian police employees supervise the project, operating the cameras in mobile vans. Contract workers will do the initial screening of the photos, but final decisions on tickets will be made by a county police officer, police Chief William J. McMahon has said.
Once the system is operating, police will issue warnings for the first 30 days. The bill also requires that each school zone be posted with signs and flashing lights announcing the possible use of cameras.
Baltimore, Prince George's and Montgomery counties, as well as Baltimore, Annapolis, and Laurel, have already started using cameras, approved by the state in 2009.
While Howard was the first in the state to get red light cameras over a decade ago, the use of speed cameras in schools zones was heavily debated. Opponents argued that speed cameras were an intrusion on privacy and that they would be ineffective. But those in favor argued the cameras will improve public safety.
Officials expect the program will garner $1.2 million in revenue the first year, but cost about $250,000. Any additional revenue would go for public safety programs under the law.
Residents can stop by Wednesday's meeting between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. in Conference Room A at the Dorsey Building, at 9250 Bendix Road in Columbia. Proposals for school zones can be found at the county's website: http://www.co.ho.md.us/, under the "highlights" tab on the Bureau of Engineering page.
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